The Brothers Marx
Daydream Theatre Company's production of "The Brothers Marx," an original work written and directed by Lenny Schwartz, presents a fascinating, thorough and honest depiction of the rise and fall of the legendary comedic troupe of siblings whose personal lives were not always as amusing as their iconic screen presence.
Beginning in the early 1900s, The Marx Brothers -- Groucho (Ryan Hanley), Harpo (Beatriz Lopez), Chico (Geoffrey David Monti), Zeppo (Mat Clerrico) and Gummo (John Robert Faiola) -- celebrated success in vaudeville, on Broadway and finally on the big screen for more than half a century and today remain one of the most recognizable American comedy acts in history. Their classic movies "Duck Soup" and "A Night at the Opera" are among the American Film Institute's top 100 comedy films of all time.
The play's first act opens with lesser known brother, Gummo, who retired early and doesn't appear in any of their films, providing commentary on the intricacies and eccentricities of family, along with youngest brother, Zeppo. Having never achieved recognition comparable to that of his three elder brothers, narrator Zeppo relays a tumultuous timeline of career and life events, painting a portrait that is hardly perfect and occasionally grim.
Despite Groucho's numerous failed marriages, his turbulent relationship with children Arthur and Miriam, Chico's adultery and chronic gambling addiction, or the troupe's bouts with anti-Semitism, the brothers' overarching mindset was always unfailingly to make their audiences laugh.
Schwartz's intricate script, coupled with the solid, improv-like performances of his actors, including Hanley's spot-on deadpan delivery as Groucho, Monti's anxious temperament as Chico, and Lopez's subtle, often delayed reaction as the silent Harpo, makes for a sophisticated, darkly comic production.
Other noteworthy, purposeful performances include Henry Barcohana's understated portrayal of Irving Thalberg, the film magnate who helped sign the brothers with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Missy Marine as Groucho's long tortured wife, Ruth, and Ben Royer's bristling Alexander Wolcott, the theater critic with an outward affinity for Harpo. Also especially worthy of mention, and criminally underused in this production, is Faiola as the early exiting brother turned top Hollywood agent, Gummo.
"The Brothers Marx" is a unique, intelligent work of theater about an important figure in entertainment history and a solemn reminder that comedy isn't always pretty, especially behind the scenes.
"The Brothers Marx" runs through Nov. 17 at the Bell Street Chapel, 5 Bell Street, Providence. For tickets and info, call 401-644-2293 or visit www.smarttix.com.